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Walking into the Xcel Energy Center front gate for the first time in three weeks Wednesday afternoon, I was surrounded by clusters of North Dakota fans, settling in to watch the Fighting Sioux practice session.

The crowd was somewhat sparse, but it reminded me how dedicated Sioux fans are. The same arena was near full for the second semifinal game and championship of the WCHA Final Five, March 17-19, thanks to the UND contingent.

The Final Five’s attendance was the worst it’s been in years with some local teams’ failure to qualify, but attendance jumped a few thousand more fans with a lot more electricity in the building for the Friday and Saturday night games when UND played.

The seats at the ‘X’ are forest green, but most turned to Kelly green when the Sioux were about to play. UND’s fans filled the half-empty Resch Center with noise for the NCAA Midwest Regional two weeks ago in Green Bay, Wis.

They’re fans who are willing to travel and be loud wherever the Sioux play. Expect more of the same this weekend.

The UND players and coaches ended Wednesday’s practice like they do many workouts, with a penalty shot contest. The Sioux players jokingly booed coach Dave Hakstol as he skated the puck toward the goal.

Those should be the only boos he hears this weekend.